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Survey Methods in Law Research: Lessons from public attitudes to price fixing Andreas Stephan Norwich Law School
What does a survey measure A set of procedures for collecting information and making quantitative inferences about populations Attitudes, attributes, actions Target population (usually too large) …so we take a sample Those who agree to participate are respondents
What does a survey measure X Y Samples Others in target Population, not taking part in survey Income Smoking
Using a survey in Legal Research Should start with a specific research question / hypothesis. Questionnaires inappropriate for exploratory research: key is design of the questions. How law: is applied / perceived / affects peoples behaviour Where to begin: –Literature review (is it necessary) –Brainstorming sessions –Qualitative research (get to know target population)
Public attitudes to price fixing survey Hypothesis: Public perceptions of price fixing do not reflect the severe sanctions that exist for such behaviour in law. Research Questions: 1.Do members of the public think price fixing is wrong? 2.What punishments do they feel are appropriate? 3.Do they feel the use of immunity is justifiable? 4.Do they perceive price fixing to be dishonest? 5.Are attitudes different towards crisis cartels?
Designing unbiased questions Dependant variables (e.g. why do people smoke?) Independent variables (e.g. parents, friends, age, stress, income) Most common explanatory variables will be demographic Many pitfalls such as reverse causality (e.g. income and education); overly narrow definitions; time. Some common challenges: Respondents dedicate limited time/effort to completing survey Making sure respondents understand questions Technical / specific language and the risk of ambiguity What can actually be measured - is survey still worthwhile? Avoiding bias (in language and context) Problems of asking about the past
Designing unbiased questions (Q1): Do you feel that young people lack discipline? (Q2): Should national service be reintroduced? (Q1): Do you feel it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will? (Q2): Would you oppose the reintroduction of compulsory military service?
Surveys should be piloted and developed over many months… SEPT 06Is it wrong for the owners of 3 corner shops to meet up once a month and agree on what prices to charge? Yes No MAR 07 Imagine the owners of the 3 corner shops in your area meet once a month to agree on what prices to charge for groceries. Shopper A believes that this is good for their customers because it ensures similar prices and saves them the hassle of searching each shop for the lowest price. Shopper B believes that this is bad for their customers because it will result in much higher prices. Which shopper do you agree with? Please tick ( ) only one. Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Neither Dont Know
Self completion (postal) Online Telephone Face to face interview (Street or omnibus) Probability and Quota surveys: the former is preferable, but not practicable with large populations. Sample size and response rates are important. The lower, the more chance that a group has been excluded, resulting in perverse survey results. Important factors include: cost; incentive; timing effort Choosing an appropriate survey method
Y X Samples Others in target Population, not taking part in survey
Interpreting the results In law, descriptive statistics are perfectly acceptable. In Economics, statistical analysis is expected. But, torture statistics long enough and they will confess… Professional ethics / responsibility
Interpreting the results X X X Y Y Y Strong PositiveNo Relationship Weak Negative
Time machine: What I would have done differently Including more questions Ask if each question really of any use / or did it just seem interesting at the time. Expanding piloting beyond CCP?
Tips for effective survey design Define the aims of the study Review the existing literature / research on subject Establish the research questions / hypotheses What is it exactly you want to measure? How? - Think ahead! Establish a realistic budget – is survey still worthwhile? Design survey questions – repeatedly pilot to develop/refine Choose the most appropriate survey method / sample size. Carry out survey (allow plenty of time for delays) Process, analyse, interpret and report.